Sunday, July 08, 2007

Marge Piercy's He, She and It

Since getting involved in Second Life, reflecting on some of the best cyberpunk I've read since my first exposure back in the 80's to William Gibson. Marge Piercy isn't known as a sci fi or cyberpunk author specifically, but He, She, and It fits the genre to a T.

As I've mentioned in an earlier post, Piercy is golden. No matter what she commits ink to paper for is worth reading. She's one of those artists who made me aware that the secret to good writing is an open and honest approach to your material, regardless of the subject matter. Without it, the most highly crafted work is lifeless.

Piercy explores her Jewish ancestry in the novel in a golem narrative that runs parallel to the main story. Wish she had named the technique which she describes as a method by which small Hebrew letters are used to create calligraphic designs in silver of leaves and flowers. Might try this with pen and ink in English for my own entertainment.

And I do know how to self-entertain, much as Piercy's character Malkah who describes her relationships in a way that I identify with wholeheartedly: "I never wanted to belong to anybody; I only wanted to borrow them for awhile, for the fun of it, the tenderness, some laughs."

And speaking so beautifully to Second Life: "In the image world, I am the power of my thought, of my capacity to create. There is no sex in the Base or the Net, but there is sexuality, there is joining, there is the play of minds, like the play of dolphins in the surf."

The honesty and clarity of Pierce's vision revealed in a world view encapsulated in a few short paragraphs: "What's wrong this week? What minor or enormous catastrophe are we striving to stave off, or failing that, cleaning up after? Yet the teeth that grind us fine in the end are the slow deaths we cause through our greed, our carelessness, our insufficiency of imagination. The news is never given in full stimuation mode. None of us want to know that intimately about other peope's problems. We want the remove of viewing a screen or reading print. We prefer not quite to believe until death grabs us, as I was seized by the nape.
My problem is that my despair dyes everything a sullen gray. I have always viewed despair as sinful self-indulgence; perhaps I truly believe that relinquishing hope is the inevitable result of sitting still. If I do not keep moving, if I do not have projects and the heady clamor of problems to be solved, I will subside into a state of near-fatal clarity in which I will begin to doubt the value of everthing I normally do. The result is a personal ice age in which I lie embedd in my own glacier that is burying the landscape I usually love but to which I am now as indifferent as the ice I have exuded."

Yet it is the love of work that grounds us, as she describes to her granddaughter, Shira, "You love too hard. It occupies the center and squeezes out your strength. If you work in the center, and love to the side, you will love better in the long run, Shira. You will give more gracefully, without counting, and what you get, you will enjoy."

And Piercy's cyborg Yod gives a good pitch for bibliotherapy: "Your curiosity's like mine. I read novels as if they were the specs to your makeup. I study them to grasp the forces underlying your behavior."

I'm on page 369 of the 444 page re-read, which is a huge commitment of time when there's so much new stuff out there yet to be explored. But, who knows, as I am nearing the end of this second read through, I consider the possibility of reading it again in another 15 or so years. (published in 1991)

Thanks Pink Wonder for quote:

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
--Augustine, (AD 354-430)